Were reports of Cipro hoarding media hype?


Fears of a terrorist attack with anthrax in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center boosted sales of the antibiotic Cipro.



Were reports of Cipro hoarding media hype?

Fears that terrorists might unleash anthrax in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks pushed nervous Nellies to stock up on Cipro, according to media reports. But some in pharmacy wonder whether the reporters weren't overreacting.

Already spooked by the massive destruction and loss of life at the World Trade Center, people frightened by the specter of anthrax deluged pharmacies with prescriptions for Cipro (ciprofloxacin HCl, Bayer Corp.), according to media reports. The antibiotic is the only Food & Drug Administration-approved agent indicated for the noncontagious bacterial disease, which is fatal if not treated promptly after inhalation of the spores. Treatment calls for 500 mg b.i.d. for 60 days.

"It was media hype, all media hype," said Jim Schiffer, R.Ph., of Jim & Phil's Family Pharmacy in Brooklyn, who is chairman of the New York City Pharmacists Society. "After the television news reports, there was interest in Cipro, but nobody wanted to pay out of pocket for it. It takes a two-month supply [to treat anthrax], and that's going to cost quite a bit of money."

Don't tell Gary Halpren, R.Ph., that it's just another media feeding frenzy. He's filled lots of Cipro scripts at Caligor Pharmacy in Manhattan and fielded lots of phone calls from reporters. "One large corporation just bought 16 bottles of 100 tablets," he said. "People are panicking. Many are paying cash. If you read the literature, there's no guarantee it will work. But people think that if you take a pill, you're protected."

The demand was so heavy that Brooklyn-based wholesaler Remo Drug ran out of Cipro, said COO Barry Reiter. "There was a tremendous run on Cipro," he said. "We sold an eight-week supply in one week. We've heard that people are walking in off the street with no prescription, offering cash. They want it by any means at any cost."

The run on Cipro was apparently a nonevent for chain drugstores. For example, Rite Aid Corp. and Walgreen Co. didn't see any unusual dispensing pattern. And there was no spike in Cipro demand at CVS either. "We've gotten calls from several different reporters about this, but it's not something we're seeing," said spokesman Todd Andrews. "If it were happening, our pharmacists would call in and say that they were running out."

Meanwhile, Bayer Corp. hasn't seen a boost in Cipro orders from U.S. wholesalers, said Robert Kloppenburg, director of public affairs. "All I can tell you is that we haven't seen it," he said. He added, however, that with worldwide sales of more than $1 billion, it would take a fairly large jump in Cipro Rxs to cause a blip on the drug company's ledger.

Anxious New Yorkers did boost sedative sales after Sept. 11, according to an analysis by NCD Health. New Valium Rxs jumped about 14%, and generic diazepam scripts rose nearly 11% in the 10 days following the attacks. Ativan prescriptions were up 14%, while generic lorazepam scripts jumped 18%.

Carol Ukens


Carol Ukens. Were reports of Cipro hoarding media hype?. Drug Topics 2001;21:11.

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